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Ian M. MacDonald, M.D., a clinician scientist internationally recognized for his genetic research into a retinal degenerative disease known as choroideremia and into certain types of macular degeneration, has recently joined the National Eye Institute (NEI) as branch chief of the Ophthalmic Genetics and Visual Function Branch (OGVFB).
Dr. MacDonald comes to the NEI from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, where he was professor of ophthalmology and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology for the past 15 years. He is the only person in Canada who is board-certified in both ophthalmology and clinical genetics.
Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., director of the NEI, said, “We are very pleased to have a scientist of Dr. MacDonald’s stature and accomplishments join the NEI. We stand at the dawn of an exciting period in genetic research, and Dr. MacDonald’s presence here signals NEI’s commitment to discovering new therapies for degenerative eye diseases.”
Dr. MacDonald will be responsible for developing a clinical, basic, and translational program of research to study the causes, development, and prevention of retinal degenerative diseases. In addition to carrying out a clinical program in the diagnosis and treatment of common and rare inherited eye diseases, Dr. MacDonald will provide leadership for OGVFB, and oversight and direction for the new NEI National Ophthalmic Disease Genotyping Network (eyeGENE™).
For several years, Dr. MacDonald has collaborated with Dr. Robert Fariss and Dr. Chi-Chao Chan of the NEI on researching the molecular biology of the disease choroideremia. In addition, Dr. MacDonald identified a mutated gene that is associated with an inherited form of macular degeneration, and conducted a clinical trial using the omega-3 fatty acid DHA as a nutritional supplement for people with this type of eye disease. Further studies using animal models will be conducted to more precisely determine the effect of DHA on the retina.